According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 37,261 fatal crashes occurred on U.S. roads and interstates in 2008, the agency’s last complete statistical year. These accidents killed more than 42,000 people — the equivalent of more than 16 average-size passenger airplanes every month or 200 every year. Many of these crashes are the result of driver behavior (two-thirds of all traffic fatalities may be caused by aggressive driving behaviors) or a lack of awareness about various hidden dangers present on the roads every day, such as the unique and often deadly dynamic between passenger cars and heavy commercial trucks.
For instance, many drivers of passenger cars and trucks are not aware of the blind spots or “no zones” that affect a commercial trucker’s field of view. Many motorists believe that truck or bus drivers can see the road better because they sit higher than car drivers. But in fact, large vehicles have serious blind spots into which cars and motorcycles usually disappear from view. One-third of all crashes between large trucks and cars occur in and around the truck’s blind spots.
Motorists should be extra alert as they approach large trucks because they behave differently than cars. If you can’t see the driver’s face in his or her side mirror or window, then your vehicle is in the truck’s side / rear blind spot. Always keep a safe distance when behind trucks. Impatient drivers who closely tail slower moving trucks are almost always completely invisible to the truck driver and a sudden stop or decrease in speed can have fatal consequences for the car and its occupants.
Always be careful and use the proper procedure to pass a large truck or bus on the highway. Accelerate slightly and maintain a consistent speed while passing. Wait until you can see the entire cab in your rear-view mirror before signaling and pulling in front of it. It takes a large vehicle twice the time and room to stop as it does a car.
Some other measures drivers should take when sharing the road with large commercials trucks are:
- Do not pass a truck on the right while the truck is turning right. Trucks must swing wide to the left to negotiate right turns safely, as the rear wheels follow a shorter path than the front wheels.
- Do not cut in front of any large vehicle, including a truck or a bus. Since they require much more distance to stop in comparison to cars, forcing a large vehicle to stop quickly can result in a fatal accident.
- Observe a truck’s turn signals before trying to pass it. If the truck appears to be starting a left turn, check which way the driver is signaling before passing the truck on the right.
- Give trucks at least four to six seconds of space in wet conditions and at highway speeds.
- Call authorities if you see unsafe driving.
- Do not cut off a truck in traffic or on the highway to reach your exit or turn.